October 13, 2010 – May 29, 2022
Diagnosed: February 22, 2018
Tucker Parnell Smith was a silly, animal loving, dinosaur obsessed, superhero watching, Lego fanatic with a bright smile and a kind and gentle soul. Tucker’s cancer journey began when he was just 7 years old.
In the fall of 2017, Tucker started complaining of occasional headaches. By January 2018, the occasional headaches had progressed into stronger, weekly headaches and by February 2018, Tucker was suffering from intense migraines and random episodes of nausea and vomiting that led him to urgent care. After an exam with a pediatric neurologist in mid February, Tucker was referred for an MRI where doctors discovered a softball sized tumor and hydrocephalus on February 22, 2018.
After two separate surgeries over a 5 week period to fully remove the large mass, his family received the news that Tucker’s tumor was Anaplastic Ependymoma (RELA+ Supraentorial), a rare and aggressive brain cancer that affected only about 200 children per year. He would need to start treatment as soon as possible.
Tucker traveled from Michigan to the suburbs of Chicago to receive specialized Proton radiation treatment. Tucker handled radiation treatment like it was just another day and with his spunky personality, quickly made friends with every receptionist, nurse and radiation technician that worked during his treatment times. He passed the time away from home by taking the train downtown and exploring the city as well as visiting every playground or park within a 10 mile radius of the Ronald McDonald House. Family visited often and every Friday, immediately after treatment, he traveled 2.5 hours home so he could continue to play his favorite sport, baseball, every Saturday morning. Not every day was easy, but everyday did bring laughter and smiles and new adventures. Tucker never missed a beat and did not let treatment or its side effects dampen his spirit.
After 7 weeks of treatment, Tucker and his family breathed a sigh of relief and Tucker quickly fell back to his normal routine, hoping to put the cancer battle behind him.
But cancer had other plans and less than 6 months after completing radiation, at his 2nd post treatment MRI, Tucker’s family was hit with the devastating news that his cancer was back. This time it was living in an inoperable location in the brain. Tucker needed radiation treatment again and this would start a near constant cycle of treatment and recurrence where Tucker and his family tried every traditional treatment, multiple clinical trials, and holistic medicine available to them over the next 3 and 1/4 years.
During that time, Tucker never lost his lust for life. He had a special light about him that always drew people in. He had an infectious laugh and an easy, sarcastic nature that you couldn’t help but love. He was a devoted big brother and a caring cousin and friend, always thinking of others despite the hardships he was going through.
In March 2022, after 4 years of fighting, Tucker’s family made the hard decision to end treatment. Tucker spent the remainder ofhis days at home, constantly surrounded by his favorite people, doing all his favorite things, watching all his favorite movies, and eating all his favorite foods. Even then, as Ependymoma slowly stole his body from him, Tucker remained positive and good spirited, making those around him laugh with his antics.
On May 29, 2022, at the age of 11 1/2, Tucker succumbed to his disease, and left behind a giant hole in the hearts of all who knew him.